O’Malley Continues To Weasel On The Death Penalty

Two years ago I took Governor O’Malley to task for his flagrant refusal to uphold his constitutional duty in regards to carrying out the death penalty in Maryland. This was not rooted in a strong belief in the death penalty on my part, though I have admit it goes a long way towards reducing recidivism, but rather a criticism of the inherent gutlessness of the former Baltimore mayor.

O’Malley has two legitimate choices. He needs to either start signing death warrants or he needs to begin an active program of granting clemency. He refuses to do either because he knows his base is congenitally averse to punishing crime and he lacks the moral courage to man up and take the heat for commuting death sentences.

Finally, someone else notices. The Washington Post’s Charles Lane makes the same arguments:

O’Malley’s inability to muster one plausible, principled reason not to commute the death sentences tells me that he’s playing politics. O’Malley’s liberal Democratic party base dislikes the death penalty. But, overall, voters in the state support it 53 percent to 41 percent — and much of that support is concentrated in Baltimore County, a swing jurisdiction in statewide elections. Clearing death row might turn pro-death penalty voters against O’Malley and hurt his re-election chances this fall.

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I suppose O’Malley’s re-election might be so important to the long-run cause of abolishing the death penalty in Maryland that it is worth exposing five actual condemned men to prolonged uncertainty, not to mention the risk of possible execution, in the here and now. But I’d sure like to see someone try to argue that publicly.

Meanwhile, O’Malley ducks the issue of executive clemency — to the extent he thinks about it at all. He’s right: they don’t give medals for that.

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